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2011 Draft Prep: Thomas will be top rookie rusher

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Mark Ingram is the best rookie running back coming into the season, and it's not close. He's the Fantasy running back to target from the 2011 draft class.

But Ingram might not finish the season as the best rookie running back. The prediction here is Daniel Thomas will be the best rookie rusher this year.

I know, call me crazy. Ingram has done nothing but solidify his standing with a solid preseason, while Thomas has looked lost. He's now No. 2 on the depth chart in Miami behind Reggie Bush, who was cast off in New Orleans to make room for Ingram.

But if you look at the scenarios that should happen, Thomas has the chance to be better than Ingram this year, and he's becoming a tremendous value pick on Draft Day. With Thomas, you just have to be patient.

That's something Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is learning about Thomas, who was drafted in the second round out of Kansas State. Thomas has struggled during the preseason and has failed to run with confidence. But Sparano said he's seen a difference with Thomas as the regular season gets closer.

"I think whenever he gets the ball a bunch he starts to get into a bit more lather," Sparano said. "He's been good the last couple of weeks. It was just in the beginning where it was overwhelming a little bit."

Thomas told me after the second preseason game against Carolina that the lockout hurt his development. But he said things are "starting to slow down a lot," and he's learning the offense and how to play his game. He was a star in college in racking up 2,850 total yards and 30 touchdowns the past two years with the Wildcats, and he said he gets better as his workload increases.

"I think it will be the same way here," Thomas said of his ability to produce. "It's just a good fit for me."

While Bush might open the season as the starter, it's unlikely he will have or maintain a featured role. He's not durable enough and he has just one 16-game season in his career – as a rookie in 2006. The most carries he had in a season was 157 in 2007.

Since then, Bush saw his carries decline to a career-low 36 last season. He will definitely improve on that since he was limited to just eight games in 2010, but Thomas will eventually emerge as the featured running back for the Dolphins. Even Sparano indicated a concern for Bush's workload.

"I really don't have a great grasp of what that number is yet with Reggie," Sparano said when asked about Bush's carries. "I kind of have to watch it, you know, particularly early when you really want to ride him early and get him going, and that's probably where I've got to watch him the most."

As for Ingram, it's difficult to predict a letdown, but there's a strong possibility he continues to share carries evenly with Pierre Thomas throughout the year. And when you factor in Darren Sproles, that's a three-headed backfield, meaning Ingram will unlikely be a featured running back as a rookie.

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He should work at the goal line – he has three touchdowns in the preseason – but he's only averaging 2.9 yards per carry. And there's this lingering knee swelling, which hopefully will go away.

Look, I'm not saying Ingram is going to be bad by any stretch. I have drafted him in as many leagues as possible because he will be an exceptional Fantasy option this year. I just wouldn't be surprised if Thomas is better by the end of the season, and I target him on Draft Day as well.

In looking at their Average Draft Position, you have to take Ingram first. Name recognition alone gets him drafted early since he won the Heisman Trophy and a national title at Alabama. He is being selected as the No. 25 running back at No. 55 overall in Round 5.

Thomas is being drafted as the No. 29 running back at No. 75 overall in Round 7. And, by comparison, Bush is being taken as the No. 32 running back at No. 92 overall in Round 8.

Something you might want to consider on Draft Day is taking Ingram as your No. 2 running back in Round 4 or 5 and then taking a chance on Thomas two or three rounds later as your No. 3 or 4 option. They could end up being great Fantasy running backs for your team.

This rookie running back class has fallen apart due to injuries to Mikel Leshoure (Achilles' tendon) and Ryan Williams (knee), and we might not see DeMarco Murray, Roy Helu, Stevan Ridley, Delone Carter or any of the other members of this rookie class have starring roles. But Ingram and Thomas should play at a high level.

And if things go the right way for Thomas, he could end up at the head of the class. He has the potential to pass Ingram for the No. 1 rookie spot this season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery - not just for football but it makes my everyday life feel better so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


 
 
 
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